Questions About Being or Becoming an LDA

1. What is SB1418?
This legislation regulates Legal Document Assistants and renames them Legal Document Assistants. This legislation also sets out the regulation procedures for Unlawful Detainer Assistants and makes the regulation the same as for Legal Document Assistants by expanding requirements for Unlawful Detainer Assistants by incorporating Legal Document Assistants and Unlawful Detainer Assistants into the same bill.

2. What is a legal document assistant? [Section 6400] (Also see questions 4 & 9)

    1. Any person who is not exempted under Section 6401 and who provides, or assists in providing, or offers to provide, or offers to assist in providing, for compensation, any self-help service to a member of the public who is representing himself or herself in a legal matter, or who holds himself or herself out as someone who offers that service or has that authority. This paragraph shall not apply to an individual whose assistance consists merely of secretarial or receptionist services.
    2. A corporation, partnership, association, or other entity that employs or contracts with any person not exempted under Section 6401 who, as part of his or her responsibilities, provides, or assists in providing, or offers to provide, or offers to assist in providing, for compensation, any self-help service to a member of the public who is representing himself or herself in a legal matter, or who holds himself or herself out as someone who offers that service or has that authority. This paragraph shall not apply to an individual whose assistance consists merely of secretarial or receptionist services.

3. Is it an individual registration or a business registration?
Registration applies to an individual not a business. Should there be more than one individual in a business, each person must register. The only exception would be if an employee performs only secretarial or receptionist services. This means that the employee may only answer the phone, make appointments, etc. or type documents given to them by the Unlawful Detainer Assistant or Legal Document Assistant. They may not provide assistance related to helping clients with specific self-help related problems and should not have clients sign the contract, etc. All client contact relating to specific self-help related problems must be with the person registered.

4. Who is exempt from registering? [Section 6401]
This chapter does not apply to any of the following:

(a) Any government employee who is acting in the course of his or her employment.
(b) A member of the State Bar of California, or his or her employee, paralegal, or agent, or an independent contractor while acting on behalf of a member of the State Bar. However, they would have to register as an LDA if they provide self-help services directly to the public on their own after hours from home, etc.
(c) Any employee of a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation who assists clients free of charge.
(d) A licensed real estate broker or licensed real estate salesperson, as defined in Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 10130) of Part 1 of Division 4, who acts pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 10131 on an unlawful detainer claim as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 6400, and who is a party to the unlawful detainer action.
(e) An immigration consultant, as defined in Chapter 19.5 (commencing with Section 22441) of Division 8. However, if an immigration consultant were also providing self-help services in areas covered by SB1418 other than immigration, they would need to register as an LDA.
(f) A person registered as a process server under Chapter 16 (commencing with Section 22350) or a person registered as a professional photocopier under Chapter 20 (commencing with Section 22450) of Division 8. However, if a process server or professional photocopier were also providing self-help services in areas covered by SB1418 other than process service or professional photocopying, they would need to register as an LDA.
(g) A person who provides services relative to the preparation of security instruments or conveyance documents as an integral part of the provision of title or escrow services.
(h) Federal law regulates a person who provides services that. (i.e. Bankruptcy Petition Preparers or Social Security Disability Representatives, etc.). However, if that person were also providing self-help services in areas covered by SB1418 other than those services covered by Federal Law, they would need to register as an LDA.
(i) A person who is employed by and provides services to, a supervised financial institution, holding company, subsidiary or affiliate.

5. What does "assistance consists merely of secretarial or receptionist services" mean?
Typing documents from information (questionnaires, etc.) that have been provided to you by the legal document assistant who has acquired that information from the client, answering the phone, making appointments, writing receipts, etc. However, only the legal document assistant shall interview clients or have the client read and sign contract or documents after reviewing them.

6. I have been told that SB1418 also affects Unlawful Detainer Assistants. Is this true?
Yes, SB1418 incorporates both Legal Document Assistants and Unlawful Detainer Assistants into the same act.

7. What is an Unlawful Detainer Assistant? [Section 6400]

    1. Any individual who for compensation renders assistance or advice in the prosecution or defense of an unlawful detainer claim or action, including any bankruptcy petition that may affect the unlawful detainer claim or action.
    2. "Unlawful detainer claim" means a proceeding, filing, or action affecting rights or liabilities of any person that arises under Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 1159) of Title 3 of Part 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure and that contemplates an adjudication by a court.

8. If I provide both Legal Document Assistance and Unlawful Detainer Assistance, will I be able to provide both services under SB1418?
Yes. However, some counties require a separate bond for each registration.

9. What does "Self-help service" mean? [Section 6400]

    1. Completing legal documents in a ministerial manner selected by a person who is representing him or herself in a legal matter, by typing or otherwise completing the documents at the person’s specific direction.
    2. Providing general published factual information that has been written or approved by an attorney, pertaining to legal procedures, rights, or obligations to a person who is representing himself or herself in a legal matter, to assist the person in representing himself or herself.
    3. Making published legal documents available to a person who is representing him or herself in a legal matter. 
    4. Filing and serving legal forms and documents at the specific direction of a person whom is representing himself or herself in a legal matter.

10. What does "in a ministerial manner" mean?
[According to the definition in the Law for Nonlawyers Dictionary - Second Edition Daniel Oran]

    1. Done by carrying out orders rather than by making many choices of how to act. In this sense, a police chief’s actions would be "discretionary" and a police officer’s "ministerial." But see #2 below:
    2. Done by carrying out a general policy (whether or not there is much choice of action) rather than by setting or making policy. In this sense, a police chief’s actions would be "ministerial" and the police boards "discretionary."

11. What does "providing general published factual information that has been written or approved by an attorney mean?
A legal document assistant may provide general published factual information that has been written or approved by an attorney such as self-help materials (books, software, etc.) published by Nolo Press, Nolo Occidental and other self-help publishers, as well as the public service brochures that CALDA has published on dissolution, paternity, bankruptcy, adoptions, unlawful detainer actions, etc. All of these brochures have been "approved" by an attorney.

12. What does "Filing and serving legal forms and documents" mean?
Legal document assistants or unlawful detainer assistants may file legal forms and documents with the courts at the specific direction of a person who is representing him or her in a legal matter and serve the documents. However, there are limitations on the number of documents that may be served without possessing a process servers’ license and the LDA or UDA may also need to obtain a process servers’ license.

13. What does "compensation" mean?
Compensation means money, property, or anything else of value.

14. When do the provisions of SB1418 take effect?
The provisions of SB1418 became effective on January 1, 1999. This includes the Contract, which CALDA provided to its members in the January/February of the ACCESS. It was voted at the annual conference in October 1998 that members could add their own provisions to the contract but that the basic wording in the contract presented to you must remain the same.

15. Where will we register? [Section 6402]
The county clerk in each county in which he or she performs acts for which registration is required shall register a legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant pursuant to this chapter. No person who has been disbarred or suspended from the practice of law pursuant to Article 6 (commencing with Section 6100) of Chapter 4 shall, during the period of any disbarment or suspension, register as a legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant. 

16. When shall we register? [Section 6402]
The Department of Consumer Affairs shall, by July 1, 1999, develop the application that shall be completed by a person for the purposes of registration as a legal document assistant. All persons providing legal document assistance MUST be registered by December 31, 1999.

17. What will the application require? [Section 6402]
The application shall specify the types of proof that the applicant shall provide to the county clerk in order to demonstrate the qualification and requirements of Section 6402.1.

18. What are the educational requirements for registering? [Section 6402.1]
To be eligible to apply for registration under this chapter as a legal document assistant, the applicant shall possess at least one of the following:

    1. A high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, and either a minimum of two years of law-related experience under the supervision of a licensed attorney, or a minimum of two years experience, prior to January 1, 1999, providing self-help service.
    2. A baccalaureate degree in any field and either a minimum of one year law-related experience under the supervision of a licensed attorney, or a minimum of one year of experience, prior to January 1, 1999, providing self-help service.
    3. A certificate of completion from a paralegal program that is institutionally accredited but not approved by the American Bar Association, that requires successful completion of a minimum of 24 semester units, or the equivalent, in legal specialization courses.
    4. A certificate of completion from a paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association.

19. What are the requirements on the application form? [Section 6403]
(a) The application for registration of a natural person shall contain all of the following statements about the applicant:

    1. Name, age, address, and telephone number.
    2. Whether he or she has been convicted of a felony, or a misdemeanor under Section 6126 or 6127. 
    3. Whether he or she has been held liable in a civil action by final judgment or entry of a stipulated judgment, if the action alleged fraud, or the use of an untrue or misleading representation, or the use of an unfair, unlawful, or deceptive business practice.
    4. Whether he or she has ever been convicted of a misdemeanor violation of this chapter.
    5. Whether he or she has had a civil judgment entered against him or her in an action arising out of the applicant’s negligent, reckless, or willful failure to properly perform his or her obligation as a legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant.
    6. Whether he or she has had a registration revoked pursuant to Section 6413.

(b) The application for registration of a natural person shall be accompanied by the display of personal identification, such as a California driver’s license, birth certificate, or other identification acceptable to the county clerk to adequately determine the identity of the applicant.

(c) The application for registration of a partnership or corporation shall contain all of the following statements about the applicant:

    1. The names, ages, addresses, and telephone numbers of the general partners or officers.
    2. Whether the general partners or officers have ever been convicted of a felony, or a misdemeanor under Sections 6126 or 6127.
    3. Whether the general partners or officers have ever been held liable in a civil action by final judgement or entry of a stipulated judgment, if the action alleged fraud, or the use of an untrue or misleading representation, or the use of an unfair, unlawful, or deceptive business practice.
    4. Whether the general partners or officers have ever been convicted of a misdemeanor violation of this chapter.
    5. Whether the general partners or officers have had a civil judgment entered against them in an action arising out of the applicant’s negligent, reckless, or willful failure to properly perform his or her obligation as a legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant.
    6. Whether the general partners or officers have ever had a registration revoked pursuant to Section 6413.

20. What are the fees for registering? [Section 6404]
The fees for registering are $175.00 in each county of registration.

21. What must accompany the application? [Section 6405]
A bond of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) shall accompany an application for a certificate of registration executed by a corporate surety qualified to do business in this state and conditioned upon compliance with this chapter. The total aggregate liability on the bond shall be limited to twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000)

22. How do I obtain a bond?
You may purchase a bond through a bonding company.

For those of you who are still trying to obtain bonds or are trying to obtain E&O insurance, we are listing bonding companies and E&O providers HERE. Most give discounts if you are a member of CALDA.

23. What if I don’t wish to purchase a bond? [Section 6405]
In lieu of the bond required, a registrant may deposit twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) in cash with the county clerk.

24. What will a bond cost me?
If you have good credit the bond will cost CALDA members $450.00 for two years. If your credit is not so good, it will cost you $875.00 for two years. If you have really bad credit or a bankruptcy, you will need to call for prices.

25. Can I be denied from registering? [Section 6406]
Yes. If the county clerk finds that the applicant has failed to demonstrate having met the requisite requirements of Section 6402 or 6402.1, or that any of the paragraphs of subdivision (b) apply, the county clerk, within three business days if submission of the application and fee, shall return the application and fee to the applicant with a notice to the applicant indicating the reason for denial and the method of appeal.

26. Does this mean that I can appeal if I am denied? [Section 6406]
Yes. The denial of an application may be appealed by the applicant by submitting, to the Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs, the following:

    1. The completed application and notice from the county clerk specifying the reasons for the denial of the application.
    2. A copy of any final judgment or order that resulted from any conviction or civil judgment listed on the application.
    3. Any relevant information the applicant wishes to include for the record.

27. Then what happens? [Section 6406]
The director shall order the applicant’s certificate of registration to be granted if the director determines that the issuance of a certificate of registration is not likely to expose consumers to a significant risk of harm based on a review of the application and any other information relating to the applicant’s unlawful act or unfair practice described in paragraphs (1) to (5), inclusive, of subdivision (b).

OR The director shall order the applicant’s certificate of registration to be denied if the director determines that issuance of a certificate of registration is likely to expose consumers to a significant risk of harm based on a review of the application and any other information relating to the applicant’s unlawful act or unfair practice described in paragraphs (1) to (5), inclusive, of subdivision (b). The director shall send to the applicant and the county clerk a written decision listing the reasons registration shall be granted or denied within 30 days of the submission of the matter.

28. What happens after the director makes the decision? [Section 6406]
If the director orders that the certificate of registration be granted, the applicant may resubmit the application, with the appropriate application fee and the written decision of the director. The county clerk shall grant the certificate of registration to the applicant within three business days of being supplied this information.

29. How many years will my registration be? [Section 6406]
If granted, a certificate of registration shall be effective for a period of two years. Thereafter, a registrant shall file an application for renewal of registration and pay the fee required by Section 6404.

30. Will I receive a registration number? [Section 6407]
Yes. The county clerk shall maintain a register of legal document assistants, and a register of unlawful detainer assistants, assign a unique number to each legal document assistant, or unlawful detainer assistant, and issue an identification card to each one.

31. What if additional cards are needed for employees of legal document assistants or unlawful detainer assistants? [Section 6407]
Additional cards for employees of legal document assistants or unlawful detainer assistants shall be issued upon the payment of ten dollars ($10) for each card. Upon renewal of registration, the same number shall be assigned, provided there is no lapse in the period of registration.

32. What will the identification card say? [Section 6407]
The identification card shall be a card 3 ½ inches by 2 1/4 inches, and shall contain at the top, the title "Legal Document Assistant" or "Unlawful Detainer Assistant, " as appropriate, followed by the registrant’s name, address, registration number, date of expiration, and county of registration. It shall also contain a photograph of the registrant in the lower left corner. The front of the card, above the title, shall also contain the following statement in 12-point boldface type: "This person is not a lawyer." The front of the card, at the bottom, shall also contain the following statement in 12-point boldface type: "The county clerk has not evaluated this person’s knowledge, experience, or services."

33. What about our advertising? Will we have to have special wording? [Section 6408]
Yes. The registrant’s name, business address, telephone number, registration number, and county of registration shall appear on any solicitation or advertisement, and on any appropriate papers or documents prepared or used by the registrant, including, but not limited to, contracts, letterhead, business cards, correspondence, documents, forms, claims, petitions, checks, receipts, money orders, and pleadings.

"A paralegal does not include a nonlawyer who provides legal services directly to members of the public or a legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant as defined in Section 6400."

The above separates LDA's and UDA's from the traditional "paralegal" that works for an attorney. This also means that you may not hold yourself out to be a paralegal unless you work for an attorney. It also means you may not advertise that you are a paralegal unless you work for an attorney. You may use the title if you contract with an attorney, provided the attorney directly supervises your work and is ultimately responsible for the work product (in other words, the attorney has the attorney/client relationship, and not the paralegal).

"If a legal document assistant, as defined in subdivision ( c ) of Section 6400, has registered on or before January 1, 2001, as required by law, a business name that includes the word "paralegal", that person may continue to use that business name until he or she is required to renew registration."

If you are already registered, you have until your next bond is renewed to change your business name. If you have not registered as of January 1,2001, you may not use the paralegal reference in your business name even if you have a bond that expires after January 1, 2003.

34. What documents can we keep in our possession under SB1418? [Section 6409]
No legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant shall retain in his or her possession original documents of a client. A legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant shall immediately return all of a client’s original documents to the client if any one or more of the following circumstances: if the client so requests at any time; if the written contract required by Section 6410 is not executed or is rescinded, canceled, or voided for any reason; or when the services described pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 6410 have been completed.

35. What does the contract require? [Section 6410]
(a) Every legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant who enters into a contract or agreement with a client to provide services shall, prior to providing any services, provide the client with a written contract, the contents of which shall be described by regulations adopted by the Department of Consumer Affairs.
(b) The written contract shall include provisions relating to the following:

    1. The services to be performed.
    2. The costs of the services to be performed.
    3. There shall be printed on the face of the contract in 12-point boldface type a statement that the legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant is not an attorney and may not perform the legal services that an attorney performs.
    4. The contract shall contain a statement in 12-point boldface type that the county clerk has not evaluated or approved the registrant’s knowledge or experience, or the quality of the registrant’s services.
    5. The contract shall contain a statement in 12-point boldface type that the consumer may obtain information regarding free or low-cost representation through a local bar association or legal aid foundation and that the consumer may contact local law enforcement, a district attorney, or a legal aid foundation if the consumer believes that he or she has been a victim of fraud, the unauthorized practice of law, or any other injury.
    6. The contract shall contain a statement in 12-point boldface type that a legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant is not permitted to engage in the practice of law, including providing any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation to a consumer about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms, or strategies.

(c) The provisions of the written contract shall be stated both in English and in any other language comprehended by the client and principally used in any oral sales presentation or negotiation leading to execution of the contract. The legal document assistant or the unlawful detainer assistant shall be responsible for translating the contract into the language principally used in oral sales presentation or negotiation leading to the execution of the contract.

36. How do I get the contract?
CALDA will provide the contract on their web page (CALDA.org) or you can obtain a copy from the Department of Consumer Affairs.

37. What are the consequences of not complying with the above? [Section 6410]
Failure of a legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant to comply with subdivision (a), (b), and (c) shall make the contract or agreement for services voidable at the option of the client. Upon the voiding of the contract, the legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant shall immediately return in full any fees paid by the client.

38. Are there any provisions relating to rescinding the contract? [Section 6410]
Yes. In addition to any other right to rescind, the client shall have the right to rescind the contract within 24 hours of the signing of the contract. The client may cancel the contract by giving the legal document assistant or the unlawful detainer assistant any written statement to the effect that the contract is canceled. If the client gives notice of cancellation by mail addressed to the legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant, with first-class postage prepaid, cancellation is effective upon the date indicated on the postmark. Upon the voiding or rescinding of the contract or agreement for services, the legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant shall immediately return to the client any fees paid by the client, except fees for services that were actually, necessarily, and reasonably performed on the client’s behalf by the legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant with the client’s knowing and express written consent. The requirements of this subdivision shall be conspicuously set forth in the written contract.

39. What are some of the things we may not do? [Section 6411]
We may not do any of the following:

    1. Make false or misleading statements to the consumer concerning the subject matter, legal issues, or self-help service being provided by the legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant.
    2. Make any guarantee or promise to a client or prospective client, unless the guarantee or promise is in writing and the legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant has a reasonable factual basis for making the guarantee or promise.
    3. Make any statement that the legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant can or will obtain favors or has special influence with a court, or a state or federal agency.
    4. Provide assistance or advice, which constitutes the unlawful practice of law pursuant to Section 6125, 6126, or 6127.
    5. Engage in the unauthorized practice of law, including, but not limited to, giving any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation to a consumer about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms, or strategies. A legal document assistant shall complete documents only in the manner prescribed by paragraph (3) of subdivision (d) of Section 6400.

40. What does engaging in the unauthorized practice of law mean?
We cannot give advice. We cannot give opinions, i.e. the client asks, "what would you do in my situation?" We cannot answer that question. The best defense is to tell them that you "do not have an opinion" and could not give it if you did. That they know their situation better than you do and if they need advice or an opinion, they must contact an attorney. We cannot select forms; however, we can provide them with the CALDA brochures and other published materials, which explain the procedures and list the forms needed. We cannot provide them with strategies. If they need a strategy, they must contact an attorney. After obtaining the information from an attorney, they can come back to a legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant to prepare the paperwork.

41. Are there any conditions under which my registration can be revoked? [Section 6413]
Yes. The county clerk shall revoke the registration of a legal document assistant or an unlawful detainer assistant upon receipt of an official document or record stating that the registrant has been found guilty of the unauthorized practice of law pursuant to Section 6125, 6126, or 6127, has been found guilty of a misdemeanor violation of this chapter, or that a civil judgment has been entered against the registrant in an action arising out of the registrant’s negligent, reckless, or willful failure to properly perform his or her obligation as a legal document assistant or unlawful detainer assistant. The city attorney, district attorney, or plaintiff, as applicable shall give the county clerk notice of the disposition in any court action.

42. If my registration should be revoked, can I reapply? [Section 6413]
Yes. A registrant whose registration is revoked pursuant to this section may reapply for registration after three years.

43. What happens if I don’t register? Are there any penalties? [Section 6415]
Yes. Failure to comply with any of the requirements of Section 6402 or 6408, or subdivision (a), (b), or (c) of Section 6411 is punishable as a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or more than two thousand dollars ($2,000), as to each client with respect to whom a violation occurs, or imprisonment for not more than one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. Payment of restitution to a client shall take precedence over payment of a fine.



Copyright 2013 by CALDA